Pop Culture Mondays/12.5.22

The “IT’S AN AI WORLD NOW” Edition

Brooke Hammerling
Pop Culture Mondays
9 min readDec 5, 2022

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Welcome to my brain…

Happy Monday and happy December, my darling pop culture junkies. Well, we have been through it this last week, have we not? I feel like I am saying this every week, but really, each week is trying to outdo the last, I think. This past week we were confronted by a DESPICABLE Kanye West, wearing a BALACLAVA (I always pronounce this as BAKLAVA, which is wrong, obviously, but it is who I AM,) telling Alex Jones how much he likes Hitler and how HITLER was misunderstood and the Holocaust never happened. I mean…even the horrific Alex Jones was like, “Yeah, dude, I disagree with you…” and felt it was a step TOO far. ALEX JONES, I mean, you have to go pretty far to have Alex Jones say you have gone too far.

As antisemitism is on the rise globally and Holocaust-denying is at an all-time high, this piece of shit has the audacity, and people are giving him the platform. It’s just too much…EVEN seemingly for Space Karen (Elon), who tried to give him a pass even AFTER that spectacle, but when Kanye tweeted a photo of a Star of David with a SWASTIKA inside it:

…even Space Karen had enough:

BUT this adds another layer of complexity, and this whole misunderstanding of FREE SPEECH that people like Space Karen and Kanye have fallen into is made even messier. Because really, the image does not incite violence — but Elon and team were clearly struggling with their own rules here and had to come up with some reason. And by the way, this was still turned into a “joke” by Space Karen, who tweeted the unflattering photo of him being hosed down by Ari Emmanual, saying that as not what made him suspend Kanye but, in fact, that picture inspired him to lose weight (yay!) EYEROLL.

For an understanding of how Elon and other people with the same mindset as him feel about free speech, see below when I dive into the AI stuff this week. It will explain a lot.

BUT…We need to help combat Antisemitism in any way we can.

As Eli Wiesel said:

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

And no better organization to support, whose whole DNA is built around that statement, is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, whose mission is to preserve the memory of what happened there by preserving the location and the artifacts and the photos and the videos and everything we have that shows WHAT HAPPENED. It’s an essential organization and one I am proud to be connected to:

OK, OK….you came for the pop culture and a little escape. I get it. And if you didn't see last week’s PCM, it is because I LOST MY SUBSCRIBER LISTS due to a technology MELTDOWN (user error →mixed with bad system →mixed with bad technology), and that led me to have a MENTY B as the kids call it but I have moved on and will slowly be rebuilding my email subscriber list BRICK BY BRICK. PERSON BY PERSON. But if you don't subscribe to PCM directly on MEDIUM, please do so, making this process easier.

Grab some headphones and enjoy. And if you love it, share it!

I wish…

AI IS HERE:

SO…one might HOPE that since humanity seems to be on the fast track to hell, we could put our faith in ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE being better…better and more humane? I mean, that’s the dream, right? That’s what sci-fi teaches us: either AI will replace humanity because we were all shit, or AI will try to destroy humanity which gives us the kick in the ass to BE BETTER.

BUT AI comes from somewhere. Yes, the idea is that once given the tools, it builds off itself in a way humans can’t, but here is the issue: AI comes from somewhere. Humans are at the core of it initially. And that’s why we have been confronted with the issues of AI around race, for example…and discrimination lives in humanity, so, therefore, it’s fair to say it will live in AI.

Guess what else lives in humanity? Sexism and misogyny. YAY! Last week, a fun little consumer app called LENSA came onto the scene loudly with its new product, an AI “Avatar” generator. The app says it's an AI photo and video editor, which is NOT CHEAP btw something like $50 a YEAR for the app, but you can get a trial and then pay $5.99 per pack of photos generated for you. And then cancel the trial (but be sure to save the pics!).

I love this shit, so I, of course, uploaded a bunch of photos — all normal pics of me that I would not mind anyone seeing! Fully clothed. Mostly face. You have to upload around 20, which makes sense as AI analyzes them and then gives you back its avatar version of yourself.

Almost ALL of mine were provocative and risque. ALL of them fell into categories including:

Fairy Princess

Fantasy

Stylish

Anime

Cosmic

And for men, there seemed to be a different standard. Many of the categories men got included:

Astronaut

Rockstar

Adventure

Super Hero

Like:

Communications legend and angel investor, Brandee Barker, pointed this out on Twitter over the weekend:

When Washington Post writer and frequent PCM podcast guest Taylor Lorenz tweeted about it, I responded with:

I really wrestled with sharing these as they are pretty daring and while I think the art is very pretty, it is wild how so many of the photos that came back of me and many other women were of these fantasy-like characters with BIG boobs and sultry, provocative positions.

And let me not say this is ALL on Lensa. MyHeritage, a DNA and ancestry company, launched its own AI generator. I uploaded pictures, and then you could pick categories like “1930s, 1940s,1950s…” and so forth. And wouldn’t you know it? All of mine came back, regardless of the time frame or category, as super sexy/pin-up style pics like:

I am not saying this happened to everyone…in fact, I heard from some women who got really beautiful and tasteful avatars/pics back. (IS it me? Am I THE DRAMA???)

But I also heard from some women who had FULLY NAKED photos that came back (they, of course, did not submit naked pics), and I did hear from some men who had to deal with their own sexualized versions, like my friend Barak Kassar:

But let’s go back to the fundamental problems of AI. Both sexist…AND racist. For example:

Why would some of the images of a black woman be generated into looking like a white woman? Ultimately the answer is that AI is built by humans. (I will say, there are other Black people who had great results and loved their avatars.) But the reality is, as of now, a majority of these AI developers are white men who play a lot of Settlers of Katan and live in fantasy sci-fi worlds. You can say I am generalizing, but IT IS A FACT so do with it as you will.

We have a long way to go. But it makes sense that if sexism and racism exist in our world, then they will exist in whatever world we create. And, of course, as the images get better over time, it shows how your image could be used in ways you never consented to, like sexual content…it gets more and more tricky.

BUT…..

We are not done with AI madness. This was just the FUN photo portion of our programming.

Another AI app that took over this weekend and is much more MEANINGFUL and IMPORTANT (also potentially dangerous) is called ChatGPT from OpenAI. It is an AI chatbot that is trained to speak in a narrative or conversational way. Think: create tweets, stories, texts, exam answers, screenplays, jokes…etc. And not without drama, either. So let’s get into it….

Remember at the top of this newsletter, and I mentioned Space Karen’s and others' “understanding” of free speech? Well, here is what I was referencing:

If you need a closer look, enjoy:

Yeah. Cute.

BUT…the idea is you tell the AI something, and it writes something based on it. And some are funny:

The app launched a week ago and already has over a million users, so it has definitely caught people’s fascination, and the fact is, though, AI is here to stay. It is just a HOPE that it evolves….

Like, who will ever take an exam again?

And…

But we shall see…

AND SOME OF OUR FAVORITE (OR DESPICABLE) THINGS:

Woo boy, that took a lot out of me, and I am only scratching the surface. I didn't include TikToks on the AI topic, as most are just showcasing their avatars, but it was definitely a trending topic over the weekend. Let’s move on to some other things happening in the zeitgeist:

  • This is a very funny TikTok trend using a filter with the Titanic theme song. Some are very funny, some are quite dark but still funny. Here are a few from creators showcasing racist comments they have experienced:

And other amusing ways creators used it:

  • If you’re like me, you have been really enjoying WEDNESDAY on Netflix. Her ICONIC dance has become a trend, naturally.
  • NEVER in my life have I cared more about a movie than I have about “COCAINE BEAR” coming in February. Who wants to see this in the movie theatre with me? I will do a city tour on this one! I think this must be one of Ray Liotta’s last role’s which might not have been his dream but I am telling you this looks hilarious:
  • If you are not watching “The White Lotus” I don't even know why you are here. I actually feel this 2nd season is better than the 1st and the 1st was amazing. Let’s start with the Opening music/credits for this show…it might be the only intro I do NOT SKIP. I mean, I JAM OUT to it:

It’s playing in clubs now…

And TikTok has become FILLED with creators sharing their theories on what's happening, and if you follow closely as I do, many people are right on the money. But no spoilers here…let’s instead focus on PORTIA, the 20-something assistant to our beloved Tanya, played by Jennifer Coolidge. Another trend on TikTok has been to dissect Portia’s fashion sense and what it means, and how it represents her OWN chaos:

The general consensus is that the creator of the show, Mike White, is a genius everyone wants to be best friends with. I am a “CHUCK & BUCK” girl from like 20+ years ago and that’s how I think of Mike White:

But his career is CRAZY impressive, including writing “School of Rock” and I learned from friends that he was also a contestant on reality shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor, and to OBSESSED Survivor fans, he was a LEGEND.

  • I wonder what D.H. Lawrence would think of his work becoming a TikTok sensation, but here we are. His steamy book, “Lady Chatterley's Lover,” was controversial when he wrote it in 1928, and NOW it is a VERY sexy (by all reports) new Netflix movie starring Emma Corrin. I have not yet seen it but TikTok tells me it is STEAMY.

THAT IS IT, my darlings…

I hope you see this edition since I am still building back my email lists. If you missed last week’s podcast, enjoy it here:

If you aren’t already a subscriber (PLEASE PLEASE SUBSCRIBE!!! to MEDIUM) and please do SHARE this with all your friends as I am trying to grow this little thing, but a part of me is not sure I should bother but lmk your thoughts…BUT IF you want this in your inbox for NOW, please send an email to:

subscribe@popculturemondays.com

Xx,

Brooke

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Brooke Hammerling
Pop Culture Mondays

Talk to me about tech, pop culture, cheese or dogs.